Nepalese volunteers clean 3 tons of trash from Mount Everest

May 10, 2019 by  
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Fourteen Nepalese volunteers collected three tons of garbage from Mount Everest in the first two weeks of their clean-up. The government-sponsored initiative is an effort to reduce growing amounts of garbage on the world’s tallest mountain. Nearly one-third of the garbage collected was taken by helicopter to recycling facilities in Kathmandu, while the remaining trash was sent to a landfill in the Okhaldhunga district. “The clean-up campaign will be continued in the coming seasons as well to make the world’s tallest mountain clean,” Dandu Raj Ghimire, Chief of the Nepalese Tourism Ministry, told Agence France-Presse. “It is our responsibility to keep our mountains clean.” Related: China closes Mount Everest base camp after overwhelming trash problem reports In 2013, the Nepali government implemented a deposit system , requiring every climbing team to bring back 18 pounds of trash per person or lose $4,000 USD. Even despite this expensive deposit, less than half of the hikers returned with garbage. In February, Chinese base camps in Tibet reportedly closed their doors to tourists, limiting visitor traffic to just climbers. In the last 65 years, 4,000 people summited Mount Everest, with 807 in 2018 alone. Thousands more hikers and tourists visit the base camps at the bottom of the famous mountain yearly. With climbing season kicking off around April, the problem of trash remains a rising concern on both the Chinese and Nepalese sides of the mountain. The rising temperatures is causing ice and snow to melt , revealing garbage that was previously hidden. Climbing guides and sherpas say the trash problem gets worse as you get closer to the 29,000-foot summit, likely because exhausted and oxygen-deprived climbers welcome the lighter load that comes with leaving things behind. Related: Mount Everest’s melting glaciers expose the bodies of long-lost climbers Under the melting snow , the volunteer clean-up crew has collected tents, climbing equipment, oxygen tanks, bottles, cans, human excrement and even four bodies of missing climbers. The crew hopes to collect at least 10 tons of garbage by the end of their six-week volunteer clean-up effort. Via Yale Environment 360 Images via Mike ( 1 , 2 )

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The reusable LastSwab might just be the last ear swab you ever buy

May 9, 2019 by  
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You may not think about it each day when you toss that cotton swab into the garbage after touching up your make-up or cleaning out your ears, but billions of people with the same habit create a massive amount of waste ! Fortunately, designers from Copenhagen, Denmark have come to the rescue with a reusable cotton swab. The LastSwab is potentially the last “cotton” swab you’ll ever need. Well, one of two anyway. The company offers the LastSwab for traditional applications and another one styled specifically for make-up . Like your typical cotton swab, the LastSwab is two-sided, catering to a multitude of needs. It’s as easy to use as any other swab, and the company advises that you use the same caution. After use, simply rinse the swab under water with a bit of soap and store it in the convenient carrying case, which is provided. The cases come in a variety of colors to suit your preferences. Related: Scotland to ban manufacture and sale of plastic cotton swabs LastSwab is the result of a dedicated effort to reduce waste and damage to marine animals . According to the Kickstarter campaign, “1.5 billion cotton swabs are produced every single day, and the average American uses 415 cotton swabs every year. In the U.K., damage is evident: For every 100 feet of beach, there are nine cotton swabs. Let’s make single-use cotton swabs a thing of the past!” The material is medical-grade silicone that is durable and strong yet delicate. Not only does this long-term solution eliminate immediate waste, but it reduces the emissions caused by the transport and repeated mass production of all sorts of cotton swabs. In a well-rounded plan to be friendly to the environment, the storage case for the LastSwab is biodegradable, and the package arrives in cardboard. Although the idea of reusing a cotton swab might sound cringey at first, it’s not so different from reusing your toothbrush each day or eating off the same plate after washing it. Obviously, many people support the movement, with nearly 12,000 backers pledging over $400,000 toward the meager $13,319 goal on the current Kickstarter campaign , which closes May 16, 2019. + LastSwab Images via LastSwab

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Second Nature transforms abandoned fishing nets into 3D-printed seashells and bowls

May 2, 2019 by  
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Did you know that ghost nets are considered among the deadliest ocean debris in the world? The term refers not to haunting specters in the water, but discarded synthetic fishing nets that pollute the seabed and trap fish, mammals and other sea creatures. To raise awareness about these abandoned fishing nets and marine plastic pollution, Rotterdam-based research and design studio The New Raw has launched a new initiative called Second Nature that’s transforming the deadly ghost nets into 3D-printed seashells, bowls and other beautiful objects. The Second Nature project begins with the collection and sorting of the ghost gear depending on material type: nets, ropes, floaters or weights. The plastic waste is then processed in a grinder to create colorful and textured filament for the  3D printing projects. Second Nature currently operates out of a mobile lab located in the small Greek village of Galaxidi. Related: Ghost gear is haunting our oceans “ Plastic is a major contributor to the pollution of the seas,” said Panos Sakkas and Foteini Setaki, founders of The New Raw. “However, living in urban regions, we tend to forget about our dependence on the sea, which is crucial to our food and oxygen supply. With Second Nature, we want to give plastic a second life.” The project also draws inspiration from five edible species of Mediterranean seashells — Mitra Zonata, Pecten Jacobeaus, Pinna Nobilis, Strombus Persicus and Tonna Galea — that are currently protected due to their intensive fishing. In giving the ghost nets a second life, Second Nature has created shell-shaped ornaments as well as a series of colorful tableware as part of its ongoing research project promoting a circular economy . The team plans to launch a new collection of objects in summer 2019 and have documented their process in a 10-minute short film by award-winning filmmaker Daphne Matziaraki, viewable here . + The New Raw Images via The New Raw

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Second Nature transforms abandoned fishing nets into 3D-printed seashells and bowls

Fueled by chocolate: Ghana’s newest biofuel

April 26, 2019 by  
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Researchers in Ghana are testing a system that will turn cocoa into biofuel  — but don’t worry — it uses the green waste produced during harvest, so you can still eat all of the chocolate! The project is funded by the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom and will be tested in Ghana, one of the world’s largest producers of cocoa. Chocolate is a multi-billion-dollar international industry, with the bulk of cocoa coming from Africa. “Every ton of cocoa beans harvested generates 10 tons of cocoa pod husks,” says Jo Darkwa , professor of energy storage technologies at Nottingham and one of the project team leads. Husks are typically discarded during harvest after the beans are extracted. Usually, the husks are left to decompose on the cocoa plantation while the beans head to fermentation and drying facilities before they are turned into chocolate. Now, researchers have developed a system that will use the husks as feedstock to generate biofuel. The husks are processed into pellets, or bricks, that can burn in generators and produce “green” electricity. Related: Cargill announces plan to reduce deforestation from cocoa “Feasibility studies indicate that cocoa pod husks could be converted into valuable biofuels and become an important energy supply for rural areas that only have 15 percent coverage at present,” explained Professor Darkwa. The many benefits of cocoa fuel This initiative is not only an innovate green technology, it also has other secondary benefits: Increase access to electricity If successful, the project could contribute to the Ghanaian government’s pledge to ensure 100 percent of Ghanaians have access to electricity by 2030. Reduce deforestation and improve climate and human health Currently, 80 percent of households in Ghana use wood as their main source of fuel for cooking and heating water. This practice not only leads to widespread deforestation in order to harvest wood, but indoor air pollution from wooden stoves is one of the top four leading risk factors for death worldwide. Create jobs If successful, the biofuel system would need workers to collect, transport , treat and process cocoa pod husks, which would create additional jobs and provide income for rural communities. Cocoa as chocolate, cocoa as compost Since it is the beans that are used to make chocolate, the husks are simply bio-waste, and therefore the biofuel system would not take away from farmers ’ profits in any way— in fact it would augment the profitability of the entire cocoa pod. However, cocoa pod waste is an important source of nutrients for cocoa trees. During harvest, ripe cocoa pods are collected and piled throughout the plantation. When the farmers are ready to extract the beans, the pods are cracked open and usually left in a heap to decompose. When husks biodegrade, they are an incredibly rich source of nutrients that help trees grow, improve soil quality and reduce plant disease. Studies show that the decaying pods host beneficial fungi and microbiotics, so will farmers and their crops be losing out on natural fertilizer if they ship their husks off to biofuel systems? Farmers with the capacity to do so might collect and bring the husks to an on-site composting location, but most small farmers do not have the capacity to process or evenly distribute the nutrients from the pile of decomposing husks and rely on nature to take its course. Farmers who do maximize the use of the compost may prefer to continue to do so, however those without that ability now have the option to profit from electricity generation instead. Testing the system in Ghana and the world “Undoubtedly, provision of sustainable energy services through cocoa pod husks would go a long way towards improving the quality of lives and thus alleviate poverty in rural communities as well as fight against climate change,” Professor Darkwa told Climate News Network . The project team is expected to test a prototype of their system at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in July 2019. The plan is to design, build and operate a small-scale bio-power electricity generation unit that burns husks in a gasification system. Each system includes a gasifier, small generator, solar drier and pelletizer and costs approximately US $50,000. If the prototype is successful, the system could be replicated in other countries following additional feasibility studies. Via Climate News Network Images via Flickr ,  dghchocolatier

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7 Easy Ways to Plant a Tree Where It’s Needed Most

April 26, 2019 by  
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With this handy list of resources, you could plant a tree in a deforested or at-risk area of the globe with less than $10 and a few clicks on the Web. The post 7 Easy Ways to Plant a Tree Where It’s Needed Most appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Grocery giant ALDI announces 100% sustainable packaging by 2025

April 8, 2019 by  
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This week, supermarket chain ALDI pledged to offer 100 percent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging on all of their products by 2025. In a press statement released early this month, the company outlined their specific goals to reduce plastic packaging throughout their stores over the next five years. ALDI is a major grocery chain with 1,800 stores across 35 states. They serve more than 40 million customers every month and are in the position to make a huge impact on the products that Americans consume, as well as the packaging they receive items in and promptly throw out. The grocery giant has a long standing commitment to sustainability, and CEO Jason Hart explains their decision to step-up efforts to combat the global plastic pollution crisis. Related: New York vows to ban plastic bags statewide in 2020 “ALDI has never offered single-use plastic shopping bags. And while we’re pleased that we’ve helped keep billions of plastic grocery bags out of landfills and oceans, we want to continue to do more. The commitments we’re making to reduce plastic packaging waste are an investment in our collective future that we are proud to make.” ALDI’s press release also states: “In 2018, ALDI recycled more than 250,000 tons of materials, including paper, cardboard, plastic and metal. Through this recycling effort, ALDI avoided the greenhouse gas equivalent of 8,094,533 gallons of gasoline.” Approximately 90 percent of all products sold in ALDI are produced and packaged exclusively for ALDI. As the sole customer, the chain has incredible power to dictate how manufacturers package, ship and present their items. However, just because the packaging is recyclable does not mean that customers will recycle it. While ALDI’s immense step forward shows remarkable growth, in order for the grocery store’s ambitious sustainability plan to be successful it ultimately relies on awareness, support and action from millions of customers. Via Treehugger Image via Mike Mozart

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Keep your tiny home safe with these 9 security tips

April 8, 2019 by  
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Tiny home security is becoming a major concern amid a recent slew of thefts. Given the mobile nature of tiny homes, people have been hooking them up to their trucks and driving away with them. The majority of these stolen tiny homes have been recovered, but it is still unnerving to think that people can steal your entire home in a matter of minutes. Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to keep your tiny home from being stolen. From locking hitches to installing motion detectors and cameras , here are a few tiny home security tips that will give you peace of mind. Related: Is a tiny home right for you? Lock The Hitch According to Tiny House Blog , the easiest way to prevent your tiny home from being carted away is to buy a hitch lock. These handy devices will stop people from unhitching your tiny home trailer. It also prevents someone from hooking up to the trailer and driving away, which would obviously be just as bad. Hitch Block Speaking of hitches, you can always block access to it entirely. After all, if the trailer hitch is completely blocked off, nobody will be able tow it away. You either buy a hitch block or make one yourself, depending on your budget . Lock The Wheels Wheel locks are another great way to keep your tiny home from unintentionally rolling away. Traffic police use these same devices for cars that are parked illegally, and removing them without the proper tools is a lot of work. Apart from the key, someone would need some heavy duty equipment to remove the lock, which will deter most criminals. The downside to wheel locks is that they can be expensive to purchase outright. But considering how much you could lose if your entire home is stolen, the investment is well worth it. GPS Technology In the event that criminals bypass your security measures, having a GPS device hidden in the home will lead you right to it. Several companies make tracking devices specifically for tiny homes, so there are plenty of options on the market to fit your needs. The majority of these devices feature a monitoring service that keeps tabs on everything for you. They usually run under $25 a month, which is not bad considering it might be one of the best ways to locate your home if it is stolen. If you do have a tracker on your home, you should always work with local law enforcement when recovering the home. Dog Power Many criminals are deterred by dogs , primarily because they are either intimidating looking or they create a lot of noise. Either way, having a dog or two on the premises could be what ultimately scares off a potential thief. While dogs, both large and small, can help discourage intruders, they should not be the primary line of defense for your tiny home. Motion Lights There are few things that would-be thieves love more than cover, especially when they are scoping out a potential target. Motion lights are great at scaring away thieves or, at the very least, making them think twice about stealing from you. Not only can these lights illuminate potential hiding places around your home, but they can also stop creepers in their tracks. There are plenty of options on the market when it comes to motion lights. For most tiny home owners, battery operated products are the best because they can be installed just about anywhere and do not require any electrical wiring. Related: This tiny home allows a family of 3 to go off the grid in Maui Securing Your Tiny Home When it comes to securing your home, Tiny Home Builders recommends installing locks on all exterior doors and windows. You can start by buying for your front door. Just about any window lock will do as tiny home windows are usually built better than ones found in RVs and most mobile homes. Smart Technology Smart home technology has made it easier than ever to keep track of your home security. You can even purchase DIY systems that include both motion detectors and sound sensors. These input devices will send you messages on your phone whenever they detect suspicious activity. The one negative to using smart technology is that they require constant power and an internet connection to function. If WiFi is not available near your tiny home, this might not be a viable option for you. Security Cameras Having visible security cameras around your home is the best way to prevent theft. You can choose a system that either stores video on a local hard drive or on a cloud-based server. You usually get better quality with a local storage system, though being able to upload to the cloud means you can access it whenever you want. If you opt for installing a security camera to bolster your tiny home security, make sure you put up a sign so that thieves are well aware that they are being monitored at all times. Images via Shutterstock

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Fairmont canine ambassador program promotes human-animal connection

April 8, 2019 by  
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It’s uncommon to see people flop down on the carpet in an upscale hotel lobby. But at the Fairmont Banff Springs on a Friday morning, a middle-aged woman from Indianapolis and two kids from Montreal are the latest of many to reject decorum when faced with Bear’s charms. The black lab gazes at them with liquid amber eyes while rolling over for a belly rub. It’s all in a day’s work for Bear, a canine ambassador who give travelers a dose of human-animal connection. The Fairmont’s canine ambassador program is spreading around the world, from Georgie, a yellow lab in Washington, DC to Tusker and Grammy, ridgeback/lab sisters at the Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club. About 16 dogs now work for the hotel chain. Some people might find it gimmicky, but travelers missing their pets are drawn to the dogs like magnets. In Banff, the floor of the VIP concierge area, Bear’s lair, is littered with toys brought by admirers. Related: Vegan dog food company continues its international expansion Symbiotic species Why do people like dogs so much that they lavish gifts upon a hotel’s canine ambassador while on vacation? Humans have probably hung out with dogs for somewhere between fourteen and forty thousand years, depending on which researcher you ask. Some scientists credit dogs with helping humans survive. It’s true they’ve guarded our lives and property, herded sheep, pulled sleds, shared warmth, helped hunt and even, in a pinch, provided babysitting services. Most pets don’t earn their keep in such tangible ways. But humans do expect emotional connection and interaction. Many humans prefer dogs to cats because Fido is more likely than Fluffy to enthusiastically greet them at the door. A recent study by Japanese animal behaviorist Takefumi Kikusui found that when humans and their dogs gazed into each other’s eyes for several minutes, oxytocin levels rose in both species. While it increased by up to 130 % in the dogs, the humans experienced up to a 300% percent boost of this emotionally bonding hormone. No wonder people feel like something’s missing if they don’t bring their dog on vacation. The making of an ambassador Of course, it takes a special kind of dog to be willing and able to provide so much love and support for throngs of strangers. Many of the Fairmont dogs are dropouts from the Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind program. They don’t make the final cut because of their personality or a health issue. Dropouts are usually too friendly and sociable to be seeing eye dogs. Laurent Pelletier, assistant director of food and beverage at the Fairmont Banff Springs , was considering adopting a family dog at the same time the hotel wanted to acquire a canine ambassador. “In a meeting, somebody asked would anyone be interested in being the dad,” Pelletier said. He and a few others staff members put their names in. Pelletier won, partly because he had dog-friendly attributes like a backyard and two children. When the day came, Canadian Guide Dogs put Bear on a plane from Ottawa. The whole family went to meet Bear at the airport. The lab/retriever mix spent a couple of weeks adjusting to his new home before he started his job. “He was extremely well behaved. But now he’s not as good,” Pelletier says affectionately while Bear mouths his hand. Bear started his job part time in fall of 2017. After about a month of staff walks, Bear was comfortable enough to start walking the guests. A Day in the Life Now Bear works fulltime from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., just like Pelletier. “It’s almost like he’s a human,” Pelletier says. “Some days he doesn’t want to get out of bed. I’m like ‘Bear, we’ve got to go.’” Bear spends most of his workday receiving visitors in the VIP concierge lounge. In winter , he might get a couple of guest walks per day. In the summer high season, they limit guest access to Bear. “There were days he barely got a break,” Pelletier says. Bear spends much of his day with Jason Lewis, VIP concierge and member of the acclaimed international concierge organization Les Clefs d’Or. Lewis grew up as more of a cat guy, in thrall to an enormous orange feline. But when asked what he gets out of his daily association with Bear, he answers immediately, “Happy. He’s company. He knows what’s going on.” Lewis manages Bear’s calendar, which includes walks with guests and occasional promotional appearances. Bear has a following of devoted fans and repeat visitors. “As soon as they book their room, they book a walk with Bear,” says Pelletier. Not only does Bear provide doggy affection, some people feel safer going on a trail with a dog. Sometimes Bear gets overwhelmed by guest attention. “You can see him tell you, ‘I’m over it,’” Lewis says. Bear slinks off behind the concierge counter when he needs a break, or holes up in Pelletier’s private office. Despite Bear’s extensive education and training, he’s still a normal dog. When he gets off work at five, he’ll play with his friend in the neighborhood, another black lab, or with Pelletier’s kids. “He’s a lot rougher with our kids than with the guest kids,” Pelletier says. “When he’s here, he’s at work. At home, he’s at home.” But even with the guests, Bear isn’t quite 100 percent domesticated. There’s still enough wildness in him to growl at a squirrel or dive into a snowbank. Images via Inhabitat

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Fairmont canine ambassador program promotes human-animal connection

UN predicts dire future for planet unless people change their ways NOW

March 18, 2019 by  
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The United Nations’ newest Global Environmental Outlook reinforces the worries of everyone concerned about the environment and our planet’s future. The 708-page report, released last week, examines human-inflicted woes on air, land and water. Scientists urge humans to immediately change their ways before we render Earth inhabitable. To those who have been paying attention to the planet’s decline, this report will not be news. But seeing all this human-wrought destruction in one enormous document makes for a grim, and even, shocking read. A few lowlights: Most land habitats have decreased in productivity for growing food and other vegetation; urban development and agriculture have claimed 40 percent of wetlands since 1970; water quality continues to worsen, due in part to chemical pollution; biodiversity is tanking, with many land, marine and freshwater species at risk for extinction; a third of the world’s people lack safe sanitation. Related: Air pollution is killing Europeans at an alarming rate With human population expected to hit 10 billion by 2050, these problems will only increase. “The science is clear,” Joyce Msuya, acting executive director of U.N. Environment, said in a briefing. “The health and prosperity of humanity is directly tied with the state of our environment .” If we don’t change our ways soon, she said, the problem won’t be reversible. Changes in consumption, energy creation and waste disposal are crucial. Fortunately, the new UN report also contains solutions. For example, changing agricultural practices and redistributing food could help stem land degradation and biodiversity loss. More efficiently using and storing water, and investing in desalination, could improve the water scarcity situation. But it will take more than well-meaning individuals to reverse Earth’s fast track toward destruction. Politicians and policy makers around the world will need to join together to devise and enforce strategies to stabilize and improve water , air and land quality before it’s too late. Via National Geographic Image via 

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New hope for plastic recycling with IBM’s VolCat technology

March 6, 2019 by  
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Think how much more material would be reused if plastic recycling didn’t entail washing, sorting and individual processing. Now, IBM researchers have developed a new chemical process called VolatileCatalyst that eliminates these steps. VolCat recycling grinds up plastics, adds a chemical catalyst and cooks them at temperatures above 200 degrees Celsius. The chemicals eat through polymer strands, producing a fine white powder ready to be made into new containers. By heating PET with ethylene glycol and the catalyst, lab workers depolymerize plastic . After distillation, filtration, purification and cooling, scientists eventually recover usable matter called a monomer—in this case the white powder. This process digests and cleans the ground plastic, separating contaminants like dyes, glue and food residue. Related: 6 places to find the best recycled building materials PET is an abbreviation for polyethylene terephthalate, the chemical name for polyester. This type of plastic is used to manufacture containers for two-liter bottles of soft drinks, water bottles, salad dressings, cooking oil, shampoo, liquid hand soap and carry-out food containers. It’s even found in carpet, clothing and tennis balls. DuPont chemists first synthesized PET in the 1940s, probably never guessing that 70 years later between 4.8 and 12.7 million tons of plastic would wind up in the ocean each year. Humans have produced more than 8 billion metric tons of plastic since its invention. About half of new plastic becomes trash each year. By 2050, some scientists project there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean . VolCat developers hope to reverse this destructive trend. According to the researchers’ statement, “In the next five years, plastic recycling advancements like VolCat could be adopted around the globe to combat global plastic waste . People at the grocery store buying a bottle of soda or container of strawberries will know that the plastic they’ve purchased won’t end up in the ocean, but instead will be repurposed and put back on the shelf.” + IBM Images via Shutterstock

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